Late night talks with Mark and Christina are one of my favorite things in life. We don’t get to do it nearly enough, living two states away from each other – but when we do, time completely escapes us. When we finally realize how tired we are and that it’s 3am, we all sadly go to bed, wishing we could go on forever. I feel incredibly blessed to be such good friends with my step-daughter. With absolute certainty, despite our age gap, I know that had we met another way we would have connected just the same.
The three of us have been discussing how to love the unlovable in an email exchange. Unlovable people are all around us. They may be part of our lives, or they may be the passerby. They are unlovable because they constantly take advantage of people, lie, steal, or hurt others, etc. For some, this is closer to home than others. Usually their actions are the result of being hurt themselves, and while sometimes knowing that inspires compassion within us, it doesn’t always make them easier to love.
We’ve all heard that we should love all of God’s children. I’ve always agreed. But in our email exchanges, I wondered, what does that actually mean? How do you love the unlovable? What does that look like?
How do you ‘love’ someone who you don’t trust, has repeatedly wronged you, and hurts those around you?
I know ‘why’ we love them – we love them because they are our spiritual brothers and sisters, they are God’s children.
But ‘how’ does love look when boundaries and guards are so high up? What is the action behind that word, love?
There are many definitions of the word love. Most of them would never apply to someone ‘unlovable’. But there is one definition out of the many that works. It may perhaps be the ONLY kind of love we can have for the unlovable:
the benevolent affection of God for his creatures, or the reverent affection due from them to God.
I’ve always thought of love as an ACTION word. But I learned through our conversations that love is also an attitude. And then I found an even more appropriate definition for the unlovable:
God’s benevolent attitude towards man – man’s attitude of reverent devotion towards God.
This is Christian love. Which doesn’t mean, lie to me. Steal from me. Keep taking advantage of me. It means, I have boundaries with you AND I also wish the best for you. I don’t judge you, because I can’t judge you. It’s not that I won’t judge you – it is truly that I can’t judge you – I don’t have that power. I respect you as a child of God. And that does not mean that I will allow myself to be hurt by you.
About judgment… I’ve learned in very big ways over the last decade of my life that we don’t have the power to judge others righteously when we’ve never walked in their shoes. We are all given different circumstances in life, and mixed with differing backgrounds, addictions, family curses, filters, hardships faced, etc., we all respond differently. To adequately walk in one’s shoes, we must piece together every fiber of their life that led them to the moment we judge them for. And we can’t do that. It is impossible.
I’ve also learned in very big ways to find compassion for loved ones in my life that I DIDN’T HAVE until I made their same mistakes. If there is ANY OTHER WAY to find compassion for someone, I’d recommend it.
But having compassion for and loving the unlovable does not mean letting them hurt you. Loving yourself means setting boundaries for the unlovable in your life; which in turn provides grounds for an authentic relationship with them that you can live with, always remembering to respect them as a child of God who is finding their way in this life.
What would you add to the conversation?